Laffably Yet Necessarily Avoided

Can you watch a star’s debut and not even know it? Well, maybe.

Watching Matt Harvey’s debut, you knew he was the guy to look for. You saw his blazing fastball and hard slider, and you watched him strike out eleven opposing batters in the blink of an eye, and you knew that he was the real thing. Watching Jose Reyes’ first big league action at the tender age of 19, and getting your first taste of his blazing speed, cannon-fire arm, and infectious happiness, you knew that he was in it for the long haul.

Aaron Laffey? Not so much.

Aaron Laffey’s performance in his Mets debut was anything but special. In fact, the reason the date of his debut, if not the debut itself, stands out, is for the debut of another, much-more-than-equally impressive hurler, who pitched against him on April 7th, 2013: a young Marlin named Jose Fernandez.

Jose Fernandez, making his debut at the age of 19 after the Marlins had, faster than you can say “fire-sale,” run out of pitchers, came into Citi Field for his introduction to Major League opposition. He came up directly from A ball, which just goes to show you that for teams outside of the Mets, risks can sometimes pay off. Jose Fernandez, if he didn’t dazzle, came pretty darn close in his debut. Jose Fernandez, in his illustrious young career, has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings facing the Mets, and has not yet received a loss against them. On April 7th, 2013, however, the Mets took on Jose Fernandez, met his challenge, and, in the end, pulled one out.

Aaron Laffey’s mediocrity merits no further examination – he pitched into the fifth inning, allowed three runs on ten hits, and left to the resounding sound of entrance music for Greg Burke, clearly audible because of the lack of applause. The Mets hit three deep fly balls in the first, struck out thrice in a row in the second, continued to fail to record a hit in the third, and recorded a hit without a run in the fourth. Anthony Recker, at that time an interesting new face (it’s amazing what two years can do to our perception of a player, isn’t it?), doubled home Ruben Tejada in the fifth, and Fernandez left. All in all, an impressive, if ultimately somewhat bittersweet, major league debut.

Daniel Murphy homered in the 6th to cut the Marlins lead to 3-2, but thereafter, the game continued scoreless; Josh Edgin, LaTroy Hawkins, and Scott Rice, if not a Super-Bullpen, at least made for an effective one. In the top of the ninth, Rice somehow navigated a scoreless inning despite two walks and a balk, and the Mets came up in the bottom of the ninth, down a run against Steve Cishek. Fortunately, Jose Fernandez’s MLB debut, paraphrasing Yogi, wasn’t over until it was over.

Lucas Duda, not yet the fearsome slugger of the N.L. East, led off, and flied deep to right – maybe a home run in the upcoming Citi Field 3.0, but not the 2013 version. Ruben Tejada waited out a long at-bat, and ultimately waited too long for Cishek; he was hit by a pitch. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, amid thousands of fans’ remarks on the complexity of his last name, singled Tejada to third, and went to second on the throw. Marlon Byrd, whose most lasting contribution to the Mets, at this point, is Dilson Herrera and Vic Black, singled down third, past the questionably drawn-in infield, and both runs scored. Just like that, put in the books.

So why is this important? Well, it matters because since his debut, Jose Fernandez has absolutely dominated the Mets, to the tune of a 1-0 record, and a 1.59 E.R.A. The Mets took care of Fernandez, or at least worked around him, in his MLB debut. After that, they failed to do anything resembling that.

Jose Fernandez will return to the Marlins some time this year, and when he does, if all goes well, the Mets will be competing with those same Marlins for a playoff spot. We’ll have Matt Harvey. They’ll have Fernandez. Only time will tell who will come out on top.

Jose Fernandez is great; that much can’t be denied. Here’s hoping that come Fernandez’s return, the Mets do as they did on April 7th, 2013, and if not sending his pitches flying into Flushing Bay, are able to work around him.


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